DEPT go CRACK! When they play they set
loose a scalding and mysterious power. It
creates a deep state of euphoric
excitement among the participating
audience. Within that CRACK! is a
pagan-like force. It reduces intellect to
a distraction. It's essence is a raw and
vinyl, the video, the analysis, the
debate, the waffle are sidetracks to the
main event. The CRACK! is momentous but
momentary and all the rest are ripples in
To attempt a reasoned
comprehension with the hand-me-down
criteria of the r'n'r circus is
tangential to the nature of the CRACK!
It's more a question of intuition.
"People overlook the
direct power of the thing and try to
break it down into intellectual terms to
confuse people that we're trying to get
through to. It's held back with the
intellectual bullshit that comes from
most major music journalists. Ballet and
opera are held back in the same way
because they're given that middle-class,
"The basic power in
our music is still there. It's the lowest
common denominator and everybody
experiences that. Journalists can find
hidden meanings that might stop people
coming to see us but once they do come
... I don't think it'll make any
difference after that."
The four minds ... CRACK!
They talk as an entity. No quotes are
"Quotes are about
ego. All four of us work together,
everybody puts in their part. Live we
each contribute our part to the whole
thing so to split it down into individual
members is to negate the whole purpose of
"On stage we don't
have a singer or a drummer, somebody
doing this and somebody doing that. We're
very flexible, we swap and share all the
time. We try and retain that openness in
everything we do."
Isn't that just denying
ego (Dic. Def. That part of the mind
which is organised and has sense of
individuality.) when it's probably what's
motivating you anyway?
"I don't think it's
denying it. In the end the rewards you
get back are far greater. You get
satisfaction out of it and aren't feeling
pissed off because no-one spotted you
from the audience. The major problem with
the music industry is that it's full of
big egos. Most other groups ("other
groups!") get successful and then
split up. You get a couple of
personalities from that group who've used
their egos to further their career. The
other people involved just get forgotten.
"We all have our own
egos and personalities but that's not
really what's important. What comes
across in the final thing is all our
personalities intermingling into one,
into a collective. A collective ego
rather than separate egos."
"We've all got strong
personalities which we put in without
trying to subdue them and become one in
how we all think and act. But when we
come across to the public, it is the
result of all those personalities."
How often do you argue?
"We don't actually
argue much but when we argue we do argue.
People are often amazed, even shocked by
the feeling we have between ourselves.
It's not that we're similar and into
similar things. We're from very diverse
backgrounds and have different tastes but
if we projected the four personalities
there wouldn't be anything as strong and
clear to concentrate on."
What have you gained by
being (in) Test Dept?
in different fields which will continue
because we're branching out in different
ways. Being in Test Dept has never been
like being in a straight group where you
rehearse a number of songs, do a gig and
it ends there. There's always been little
diverse jobs that have to be performed by
somebody, from making films to putting up
scaffolding. That's why it's never
Are you still as affected
by the music?
"Oh yeah. And if not
then you just hit things harder. We're
all a lot deafer than when we started but
that's a hazard of the job. When we go
back after laying off for a while it can
be quite painful and ear
A Christmas present
dilemma solved. For Test Dept the Health
And Safety At Work regulations and the
new Jane Fonda Workout LP.
"We do quite a lot of
physical exercise nowadays. It takes
three weeks of practising non-stop to get
yourself into a physical condition where
you can actually play a 40 minute set
without flaking out. The muscles just go.
"You have to be
totally committed to it, it's not
something you can just do and have
another life outside of. It takes up your
whole person, your whole being is that.
If you're not totally into it and in tune
with it you start failing behind. You've
got to maintain the momentum."
How is that applied on a
day to day basis?
"We run ourselves as
a business although we're not exactly
financially successful. People assume
that when you sign to a record label then
immediately they take the workload and
you're free to spend your time getting
drunk and taking drugs. With us we're
still involved in every decision, we
don't let the company do hardly anything.
Nobody, apart from us, understands what
we do. Because we're signed to a record
means we've got twice as much work to do.
The load increases all the time.
"We soon learned that
we can't work in the studio in the same
way as we do live. We are coming to
understand what we can do to get the same
power but in a different way, using the
studio as a different medium. We haven't
really exploited it yet, we're still
basically a live group.
"Then again, there's
no necessity to go into the studio and
repeat what we do live. There will always
be live tapes whether we put them out or
whether they are bootlegs. The live thing
you can't really capture on record
because it's a very visual thing. Working
in the studio is something that carries
on for a long time, you never fully know
what it's all about. You learn all the
time There's loads more to be done in
"We use visuals live
but there's a lot more potential in doing
things with video. There's a lot more
technology involved and we could really
take that further. Also, it's about
getting away from promo videos which are
record company hype.
"Because we've made a
video we've been told we've sold out.
There's a lot of old hacks in the
business who think they've seen it all
before. It just makes us more
determined... to kick them in the
America (the beautiful
land of the sweet sweet CRACK! as the
coffee-dunked pound cake hits the
tastebuds) how was it?
"The places weren't
packed but there was enough interest for
there to be an atmosphere. We got a good
response, liked the way we actually found
stuff to play in the places we were
playing. It was good to do something
without any hype to it. The people who
came are the ones who go to see all the
bands. But they weren't used to having
the back of their heads ripped off.
"They hadn't had the
intellectual paper work to build up an
image of us. And England's got such an
inflated opinion of itself when it's just
a little tinpot island middle of
foundering in its own waste products, the
backlash and bad karma of empire ... )
"...And the groups
that go to America supposedly to
represent what English music is about are
"We had no idea how
applicable we were going to be to
American audiences and how they were
going to relate to our kind of imagery.
The New York Times wrote how we could be
interpreted as a jazz band 'they play
urban music and jazz is music'. So the
New York jazz scene all came to our gig
as did punk rockers, critics and a few
beatniks. They all had the same reaction.
They said 'Yes, I can dig this'."
Is there humour in what
It's no that apparent to lot of people.
It's quite obvious in the video... isn't
(I'm fond of the part
where a video driver's head goes through
"And on the album,
read the title hear what the song is
about. There's a tongue in a cheek there.
People would get very bored if it was a
really heavy trip we were laying on them.
"People have a really
odd picture of us, they think we lead
monastic existences, Buddhist monks.
OMMM! A lot think we're really depressed
but nothing could be further from the
truth. We're not flippant but at the same
time we're not so engrossed in dogma that
we can't see our arse from our
I can see the headlines
now. Test Dept The Four Gag
Merchants Of The Apocalypse. What a